Destiny often hides in an encounter, a trip, a doorstep—but for Jim Hamann, a young Cornell Engineering graduate on a tasting jaunt through Burgundy, it took the form of a gigantic well-worn copper stockpot, half-hidden in an antique store in Saulieu, France.
“It comes from La Côte d’Or,” said the shopkeeper, pointing to the two-Michelin-star restaurant across the street. Mr. Hamann fell in love with the greenish, dusty pot and brought it home to Rhode Island, but not until he promised his girlfriend, Linda, he would find a way to clean it, so she could use it in the kitchen.
“I started cleaning it but I had no idea how long it would take,” he said recently, surrounded by dozens of gleaming pans at his East Greenwich atelier. “After seven tries, Linda felt she could cook in it.”
At the time, Mr. Hamann was working in the shaky world of technology and startups—but the manual work and the process of restoring the pans, now his passion, touched him on a deep level. Tall, broad-shouldered and stylish, his long, Venetian blond hair tied low in a pony tail, Mr. Hamann could pass for a photographer or a creative director—that is, until you see his working hands.
“Suddenly I imagined the story behind the pans, the kitchens, the meals—the romance even,” he said.
He established a website and placed an ad on eBay, offering to restore antique copper pans. Soon, boxes of all sizes and pans of all shapes and eras landed at his home. They came from food lovers and collectors, but also from chefs smitten with the pans’ unique heat-spreading ability.
Mr. Hamann finally took the plunge and started refurbishing and re-tinning (meaning re-lining the tin layer) full-time, taking pleasure and pride in giving old pans a new life. Copper itself can be toxic, which explains why the pans are lined with tin, but tin melts at only 450 degrees. Soon, the artisan felt he needed to create his own contemporary interpretation of the antique pots.
To keep a link with the past, he registered his business under the name Duparquet, honoring the oldest American kitchen equipment manufacturer, Duparquet, Huot & Moneuse, a company that sunk in 1936, a victim of the Depression.
“I wanted to create cookware of similar quality than the pots and pans of the past, but able to handle more heat, so I started experimenting with different metals,” he said. Inspired by the work of early 20th-century artist Joseph Heinrich and searching for the extraordinary, Mr. Hamann chose sterling silver not only for its excellent heat distribution, but also for its stunning look and value.
“Silver doesn’t melt until about 1,760 degrees,” he said.
These jewels, some only lined with silver, some in 100% solid silver with a starting price of $2,800, work beautifully on the stove but should not be used for searing or grilling if you’re looking to keep the immaculate, mirror shine.
“But if you choose purpose over looks,” says Mr. Hamann, “These pans won’t let you down.”